Tuesday, January 22, 2008

More Notes on Marseille

I'm feeling much better today. Yesterday was frustrating. History research is very much like detective work. When you see the young detective in the movies pouring over old newspaper clippings on microfilm, there's a reason that it's in montage- it's bloody boring work and a bit like panning for gold. And it takes forever. Today, for example, I researched for 9 hours straight and came up with an advert from 1834 that I might be able to use in my dissertation.

But, I'm feeling better today, probably because I ate better last night, and slept better after that. So, here are some brief notes on Marseille:

1. That's how they spell it in France- not Marseilles- so I'm going with them.

2. They say that the same climatological and geological conditions hold true across the Mediterranean. I don't know if that's true, but Marseille looks just like the West Bank.

3. If this is the climate in Israel, I am starting to understand the appeal of living there.

4. Marseille has a reputation for rioting, kids burning cars, and other mayhem. People worry about it's "Islamicization", but it's always been a place of insurrection. Read the lyrics of the Marseillaise some time!

5. The graffiti outside mon chambre reads: "Sarko la pute!" a comment on Nicolas Sarkozy and whoredom, respectively.

6. Sarko is hated here because he left his wife for a nymphet model. It's as if the French are mad at the father who betrayed their mother- all very Freudian. Politics in republics can tend towards a massive family psychodrama!

7. Marseille calls itself "the port to the Orient"- indeed, I'd say about 35% of the population is from North Africa.

8. Actually, Marseille hasn't rioted as much as Paris has in recent years. Because of that, National Geographic sees Marseille as a model of integration. I didn't agree with them until yesterday. Now, I see what they're getting at.

9. At any rate, the Islamicization stuff is stupid. You can see what the problems are here- lots of bored kids with few job prospects hanging about- and they have nothing to do with Islam. It's quite a bit like our town Hamilton, actually.

10. All that said, I am endlessly amazed by the daily kindness and general high spirits of the French people. I'm not sure if it's them or me, but I've been generally very well treated everywhere I've gone in France.

11. Holly and Greg are right about the challenges of language. I've been able to have conversations in French, but just barely. It's a whole different animal from written French. I understand about 50% of spoken French and about 95% of written French.

12. In general, moving to a foreign country is a bit like having your identity erased, or waking up with amnesia. You wonder who you are in this very different context. If the only being we have is being-in-the-world, changing the world seems to threaten our being. I feel entirely diminished in France, but in some way this is freeing as well. I have no fingerprints here.

Naturally, I have more to say. At some point, my friends here are going to let me use their wi-fi, and I'll post my voluminous writings and photos. Oh joy, right?

3 comments:

Holly said...

I knew it. After reading what you wrote yesterday, I turned to Greg and said, "He's just jetlagged and crappy. Just needs to eat and sleep on it. Tomorrow will be much better."

Do keep the updates coming, we're basically out of news. Not that we know everything after a year here, but we're just not brimming with newness.

Hiromi said...

10. All that said, I am endlessly amazed by the daily kindness and general high spirits of the French people. I'm not sure if it's them or me, but I've been generally very well treated everywhere I've gone in France.

I had the same experience during my (brief) vacation in Paris several years ago. I was treated really well, even with my truly crappy French. Whenever I talk to other people who've been to France about that trip, they mention French rudeness, but I never ran into any problems.

gregvw said...

I also had a very positive experience in Paris when I was vacationing there with my parents in 1989 or so. One stranger drove halfway across town so that we could follow them to our destination and someone else paid our toll on a road because we were having currency confusion.